TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Florida’s Poison Control Centers said two people in Hillsborough County have died and dozens of others were hospitalized with severe bleeding after using a tainted form of synthetic marijuana known as spice.
The incidents were first reported on Monday. The center said 35 people had been rushed to the hospital after consuming the drug, and later said five more people had been hospitalized.
On Tuesday afternoon, Poison Control director Alfred Alegaus said 41 people were hospitalized and two of them had died.
Alegaus said he believed the drugs were purchased locally and said the center had notified local authorities. The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office said it was made aware of the situation.
“What we want to do is get the message out to the public that this stuff is out there,” said Alegaus, managing director of the Florida Poison Information Center in Tampa. “The issue is that they never know what they’re getting.”
Alegaus said the drug is contaminated with something that causes sudden severe bleeding that could be life-threatening.
“So if you … cut yourself shaving, you know how that would usually clot within a minute or two?” he said. “It would bleed for hours.”
Patients are also bleeding from the nose or gums or experiencing blood in their urine and unexplained bruising.
“The Poison Control Center sent clinical alerts to all Emergency Departments and has asked them to report new cases,” a statement said. “We are closely monitoring this situation and working with public health agencies. Toxicologists and poison specialists are assisting hospitals in the treatment of these poisoned patients.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, synthetic cannabinoids — so-called because of their similarity to chemicals found in the marijuana plant — are human-made mind-altering chemicals.
Experts say symptoms can develop quickly in people who use them.
Alegaus said in 2018, a person from the Tampa area died during a spice outbreak across several states that poisoned more than 300 people. There have been no reported deaths related to the current outbreak, which has, so far, been contained in Hillsborough County.
Alegaus said people who are hospitalized are treated with an antidote to combat the effects of the spice.
If you or someone you know is bleeding after using spice, go to the nearest emergency room. Those who need help with poison emergencies or questions can call 1-800-222-1222.